Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Can boxed games retail keep up?

For me, going down to the shops these days only tends to be for the essentials, like bread, milk and biscuits, and the insides of shops such as Gamestation and GAME remind me of scenes from 28 Days Later. Not that the retail staff have turned feral and are ripping paying customers into sloppy ribbons, but the fact that they are quieter than an underwater library.

These days, my games are brought from the major online giants that offer me cheaper prices, wider variety and special edition boxes. Lately however, I have even been turning away from here to places without the inconvenience of even a game box.

With amazon.com recently releasing a digital games download service, possibly caving in to the competition, how long will it be before game boxes are no more than a crazy old person’s story about the past that no one will listen to?

Digital downloads are hardly anything new, with Valve’s very successful games distribution and playing platform, Steam. People may have laughed at them back in 2003, but now it seems that everyone is trying to jump on this bandwagon.

Since broadband internet is becoming commonplace, and connections are getting faster than a bullet train speeding towards a magnet, games can be delivered in a few hours down a cable, rather than four to five business days depending on how energetic the postman feels.

Will games retail ever completely die? Probably not. Old people and less internet savvy folk will always need to browse aimlessly around shops, hanging on to every word that the store assistant has to say in order to get a sale. Such people are slowly becoming few and far between in the digital age however.

With Steam now beginning to snowball with the support of publishers such as EA, Ubisoft and THQ, the giant digital distribution platform with a catalogue of over 500 titles is certainly impacting on boxed sales.

They have not just cut out the retail middleman with their own game sales; they have tied him up, kicked him in the balls and started to steal his business away from him.

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